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Rave reviews, but I don't get it

w
Warthog Aug 15, 2006 03:59 PM

Stealing a thread idea from the LA board, I'd like to request Baltimore/DC hounds to list restaurants that get rave reviews (on chowhound or elsewhere) that you simply can't understand. You know, the places that everybody else seems to love, that leave you baffled as to why. What's YOUR list?

  1. k
    KAZ Aug 15, 2006 04:07 PM

    The Helmand. I just don't get it. I've eaten there multiple times and each time I come away with the same impression: the food is OK, but nothing to deserve the rave reviews.

    3 Replies
    1. re: KAZ
      Lowbar Aug 15, 2006 04:11 PM

      Wow, Helmand in Baltimore is my favorite Afghan restaurant in the US. To each his/her own I guess.

      1. re: Lowbar
        j
        jeanki Aug 15, 2006 05:14 PM

        I love the Helmand, especially for how much it costs and the pleasant service and atmosphere; it tastes very unique.

      2. re: KAZ
        m
        mgarland Aug 16, 2006 08:42 PM

        I love the Helmand too. Never had bad food there!

      3. monkeyrotica Aug 15, 2006 04:16 PM

        I'm going to avoid ranting about the Cheesecake Factory/Macaroni Grill because that's been done to death.

        2 Amys. You can use the best ingredients in the world and still end up with a burnt pie in a poorly ventilated restaurant that's kid-friendly in all the wrong ways.

        Breadline. It's not so much that sandwiches are overrated, but that everything else in that area is so aweful, people are willing to put up with long lines and high prices and surly service for something that won't make you violently ill.

        Five Guys. Case study of franchising done wrong. Making franchisers buy 5 stores means they end up cash poor. Consequently, they try and recoup their investment by cutting corners. And frying twice is the ONLY way to keep them from turning into grease sponges. A pound of greasy fries is a pound of greasy fries.

        13 Replies
        1. re: monkeyrotica
          t
          Tugboat Aug 15, 2006 07:23 PM

          2 Amy's?

          That place is a gem.

          1. re: Tugboat
            monkeyrotica Aug 16, 2006 12:15 PM

            I'm with MLP on this. Our experience is that 2 Amys is an overpriced, inconsistent "gem." Glad your experience is different though.

            1. re: monkeyrotica
              t
              Tugboat Aug 16, 2006 01:51 PM

              Every single restaurant I love has "let me down" from time to time. It is the nature of the business. 2 Amy's is no exception.

              But I love that place. Warts and all.

              They make some of the best food in DC on a regular basis with a HUGE number of customers. Just try to get in there on a Saturday or Sunday before 1:00 PM.

              I can see how you would say they are inconsistent. All restaurants are.

              But I am not sure about over priced. Great wine program at decent prices.

              And their specials are to die for.

              For a long period of time, my family and I drove every Sunday to eat there from Baltimore. I still try to get there as much as possible.

          2. re: monkeyrotica
            jrsmoltz Aug 16, 2006 03:13 PM

            Thank you, thank you.

            Five Guy's is alright maybe once a year. Unfortunately everyone in my office wants it every other week. Much better burgers to be had elsewhere; heck, I'd probably take Ollie's Trolly burgers for lunch downtown before five guys.

            2 Amys, on the other hand, I would never say is bad. I do enjoy their pizza, but it's just not as great as everyone says. It's slightly above average pizza (for dc) with higher prices. I'd take a pie from Vace over 2 Amys any day.

            1. re: jrsmoltz
              v
              vjs Aug 19, 2006 07:06 PM

              I agree that Five Guys is utterly overrated. The burgers are alright, but the fries are so greasy that they'll eat through the brown paper bag. If you want great fries and burgers, then you should check out Lindy's Red Lion in Foggy Bottom...a much better alternative.

              1. re: vjs
                w
                Warthog Aug 21, 2006 02:41 PM

                Others have pointed this out in other threads, but it bears repeating. In commenting for good or ill on Five Guys, it would help to specify which location(s) is/are the basis for the opinion. Even as a local chain, there's a certain amount of variability between locations.

                1. re: Warthog
                  v
                  vjs Aug 21, 2006 03:34 PM

                  You make a good point...the one I speak of is the Five Guys at National Place, around 12th & F (or something like that).

                  1. re: Warthog
                    jrsmoltz Aug 22, 2006 01:52 AM

                    Thanks Warthog for the good point. Just like vjs, I have eaten the burgers and greasy fries from the National Place location at 13th and F, and had the same experience at the Chinatown one at 9th and H.

                    1. re: Warthog
                      Chocolatechipkt Aug 30, 2006 12:33 PM

                      That's a good point, though I've had overly greasy fries at the Tyson's, Bowie, and G'burg/Shady Grove Rd. locations. Keeps me from eating fries, so in a way it works out, lol.

                2. re: monkeyrotica
                  dctoflorence Dec 5, 2006 09:47 PM

                  2 Amy's is the only denominazione d'origine protetatta pizzeria in the area. Have you ever had a pizza in Napoli? Rome? Florence? Anywhere in Italy? If not, you should know that ALL the pizza has a burnt bottom crust. They HAVE to because they are cooked in 600 degree wood fired ovens so that they don't get soggy. Sorry, that's just the way it is. If you want really good pizza without that burn bottom, go to Sette Osteria. Pretty darned good, but not DOP.

                  1. re: dctoflorence
                    p
                    pgym Dec 17, 2006 02:08 AM

                    I can't speak for Pizza Roma or Pizza Fiorentino , but the Pizza Napoletana crust is NOT burnt, it's charred.

                    As for the certification: 1) it's DOC (d'orgine controlla) not DOP; and 2) VPN America allows "members" so much leeway in terms of equipment, techniques, and ingredients, that the certification is little more than a marketing tool.

                    If 2 Amys cooking at 600°F, they're at least 200°F too low, and if they're cooking at 600°C, they're at least 90°C too high.

                    1. re: pgym
                      dctoflorence Dec 17, 2006 12:50 PM

                      Aww, boo. It's a shame that VPN allows such variance. I guess I'll be missing a lot when I move back to the states. I guess once you have had good products, it's totally hard to go back. Not looking forward to nasty pizza, even if it's DOC.

                  2. re: monkeyrotica
                    t
                    tree Dec 7, 2006 06:58 PM

                    The key to 2 Amys... go for lunch and only order the D'Oc pizzas. Otherwise it is too loud, with bad service and inconsistent food.

                  3. Lowbar Aug 15, 2006 04:23 PM

                    Most: Pasta Mia

                    Then, in no particular order:

                    Asia Nora
                    Lauriol Plaza
                    Georgia Brown's
                    ZPizza
                    Meskerem
                    Caucus Room
                    Breadline
                    Cakelove (not on chowhound)
                    Mexicali Blues
                    Urban BBQ
                    Rocklands
                    all the "fancy" pizza places (Pizzeria Paradisio, 2 Amy's, etc)...matter of personal taste i guess

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: Lowbar
                      rcheng Aug 16, 2006 03:22 AM

                      I disagree with Mexicali Blues and Rocklands. I've enjoyed the burritos, soft tacos, and papusas at Mexalic Blues and I've often enjoyed the BBQ at Rocklands. I use to love going to the Rocklands in Clarendon/Ballston (the one that was attached to Carpool). Too bad it's not there anymore.

                    2. j
                      jmasek Aug 15, 2006 04:26 PM

                      Cashions - yeah its comfort food, and it uses seasonal ingredients, but I still find it a little boring.

                      1. j
                        Jstrelitz Aug 15, 2006 04:27 PM

                        Can't stand Cakelove. We need better, fun bakeries in this city and it's near burbs.

                        But LOVE me some Cashions.

                        1. h
                          Hal Laurent Aug 15, 2006 04:37 PM

                          Citronelle. I've only been there once, so maybe they were having a bad night or aren't as good when Michel Richard isn't there, but I was quite disappointed. The food was good, but not "wow". Not nearly what I was expecting for those kind of prices. Maybe I ordered badly, but for that kind of money I don't think it should be possible to order badly.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Hal Laurent
                            s
                            Scotteem Sep 2, 2006 02:47 PM

                            Were we there the same night? My reaction to the food was the same, but I know Chef Richard was in the kitchen, because I could see him. It was more the service that was disappointing, though, from not being ready for our prompt arrival (we eat early when we eat out) and not bothering to even look up at us at the top of the stairs when they were ready to seat us (we went back down after a couple of other parties went down and didn't come back up the stairs). We prefer not to be rushed, but the wait between courses was interminable. The wine service was somewhat condescending, and the pairings weren't all that. We had recently been to Maestro, and wished throughout the dinner we had gone there instead. I did enjoy watching the kitchen at first, when Chef was schmoozing the diners at the table in the kitchen. But then someone showed up to join that party, and Chef turned his back on the whole table for the rest of the meal. That was weird, and kind of off-putting. Was it the jeans the guy was wearing, or the fact that he showed up about an hour into the meal? At those prices, I wasn't willing to give it a second chance.

                            1. re: Scotteem
                              h
                              Hal Laurent Sep 2, 2006 03:25 PM

                              I agree about the wine pairings...we weren't impressed with them either.

                          2. d
                            daeglo Aug 15, 2006 04:42 PM

                            Ruth's Chris - Been there 3x. Haven't gotten a steak done properly yet.

                            Saffron - It's decent, but what are the raves about?

                            1. d
                              Don Cornelius Aug 15, 2006 05:06 PM

                              The PROBLEM with CakeLove is the butter cream frosting on the cakes. If you love butter cream, you're happy at CL. But if you find it overwhelmingly sweet and unnecessarily rich, you're likely never to return. I'm in the latter group, even though I love all types of desserts.

                              Warren has a large PR machine working for him, and that creates some backlash too.

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: Don Cornelius
                                t
                                tubman Aug 17, 2006 02:34 PM

                                I've never been more disappointed at something that failed to live up to the hype as Cakelove. I bought two cupcakes, ate one of them cold, and wasn't impressed. My bad, blame my impatience for Cupcake #1.

                                Thinking there must be something to the room temperature recommendation, I assumed an hour was enough time to have the other reach the recommended 72 degrees. I didn't have my digital temperature probe with me, but it must have only reached 71.9, because I still found more satisfaction in the butterless room-temperature cake sold at the Giant.

                                1. re: Don Cornelius
                                  Chocolatechipkt Aug 30, 2006 12:30 PM

                                  He sure does. I didn't want to like CL at all, but I had to appreciate his use of butter etc. I bake plenty myself, so it's not as if I'm going to pay $3 a cupcake (which is ridiculous, IMO), but they weren't bad. Not trying to start anything, just stating another view.

                                  And just as a side note, the buttercream I make actually uses *a lot* less sugar than most other icings. In theory at least, you use less buttercream b/c it's so rich. It's the Crisco-type icings that use about 1 c of Crisco (or whatever) to 2 lbs of confectioner's sugar.

                                2. BarbHelm Aug 15, 2006 05:50 PM

                                  The Majestic Cafe on King Street in Alexandria. Three times and that's the last time. The environs and ambience are pretty nice, though. Just the food isn't anything special.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: BarbHelm
                                    Bob W Aug 15, 2006 10:20 PM

                                    Good call. I had lunch there once and the food was not nearly as good as the black and white photos on the wall.

                                    1. re: Bob W
                                      BarbHelm Aug 17, 2006 06:06 PM

                                      I finally found someone else who will not accept just the reviewers' comments on Majestic Cafe! Thanks, Bob.

                                  2. m
                                    MLP Aug 15, 2006 08:06 PM

                                    2 Amy's - I can't understand the desire to eat burnt pizza. I grew up in Philadelphia so I have some idea of what a good pie is and 2 Amy's (after two visits) is simply overpriced and inconsistent with it's product.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: MLP
                                      t
                                      Tugboat Aug 16, 2006 01:54 PM

                                      I have had bad pizza there as well.

                                      More often than not it is really good.

                                      But you must check out their specials. Non-pizza items.

                                      They are silly good. They cure their own meats. They make great sammies.

                                      Next time you go, don't order the pizza. Order the specials.

                                    2. Bill on Capitol Hill Aug 15, 2006 10:10 PM

                                      Great topic! Breadline is the first place that comes to mind for me. I've tried it twice and had utterly ordinary sandwiches twice.

                                      1. Lettuce Eat Aug 15, 2006 10:41 PM

                                        Ah, but this is why I keep pushing you guys to explain WHY you like something instead of the usual "Try the pasta. Yum!" at a place that serves nothing but pasta. You may like the salmon cooked to resemble canned tuna, or the spinach to taste like a frozen brick. Perhaps you've never had a good burger or crab cake in your life and are judging the only one you've ever tasted the best. You may think $100 per person is "moderately priced". If you rave without specifics, I have to assume you are the restaurant owner. Give me a reason to believe you.

                                        1. b
                                          BaltFoodie Aug 15, 2006 10:50 PM

                                          Brass Elephant - It gets a 23 in the new Zagat survey and I just don't get it. I mean I really want to like the place and I just can't do it. I have heard exactly the same question/comment from another chef/owner in Baltimore not three weeks ago.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: BaltFoodie
                                            m
                                            mgarland Aug 16, 2006 08:26 PM

                                            i agree with you here- I've been there once and that was enough. (i posted about it on chowhound before the site was redesigned/sold and I can't find my old post!) Anyway, they completely overcooked my tuna, broke the cork off in my bottle of wine, and my dessert was so terrible that I sent it back.

                                          2. m
                                            MetroHound Aug 16, 2006 03:18 AM

                                            Been to Heritage India thrice, oversatled everytime and service with an attitude to boot!
                                            Bankok 54 would not survive a day in Bankok.
                                            Taqueria Pablano, the less said the better.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: MetroHound
                                              s
                                              Smokey Aug 16, 2006 02:41 PM

                                              I'm with you on Heritage India. I've been there a total of 3x over a roughly 3 or 4 year period (the last time was over 3 years ago, so, unfortunately, I don't have any specifics), but I've always been underwhelmed. The green chutney-type stuff that comes with the samosas? Tastes to me like it was mixed with mayo. I just don't like it and don't understand the love for it.

                                              1. re: MetroHound
                                                z
                                                Ziv Aug 19, 2006 07:46 PM

                                                MetroHound, sorry to hear you didn't like Bangkok 54, it is my favorite Thai place in NoVA now, and though it isn't as good as Ram Buttri or some of the best places on Sukhumvit, it has been close the three or four times I have been there. The Issan combo is in the ball park of what I got at the decent mom & pop places in Chiang Mai or Udon Thani, not as good, but close, and the crispy pork belly was like I had it in Sukhothai, chewy and incredibly flavorful.
                                                I am with you on Taqueria Poblano, tho, especially the new one on Harrison.

                                                1. re: Ziv
                                                  f
                                                  Frobozz Nov 1, 2006 11:11 PM

                                                  Add me to the people (slightly) disappointed by Bangkok 54. However, I went on a Saturday night...and my rule is you never judge a restaurant by what you get when it's loaded to the gills on a Saturday night. It was OK, not special, but I'd try it again at another less busy time.

                                                  It really bothered me when I left, though, and saw that nearby Matuba was about half-full on a Saturday night. That never used to be the case, and I've always loved that place. Has it slid?

                                                  1. re: Frobozz
                                                    Mulan Nov 2, 2006 01:28 AM

                                                    I'm always surprised when Bangkok 54 shows up as Best Restaurant. They are okay and their decor is great. Maybe I'm ordering the wrong dishes. Heard a lot about the pork belly dish. Perhaps I need to try that there next time.

                                              2. rcheng Aug 16, 2006 03:24 AM

                                                Galileo. Haven't been overly impressed with the food. I've also almost always been disappointed by the pre-made sandwiches I get at Marvelous Market.

                                                1. JonParker Aug 16, 2006 11:28 AM

                                                  G&M. I keep hearing how they have wonderful crab cakes, but my experience was not just ordinary, but downright bad. Looked great, but too much doughy and nearly inedible filler. Ugh.

                                                  4 Replies
                                                  1. re: JonParker
                                                    Lowbar Aug 16, 2006 01:07 PM

                                                    Their crabcakes at G&M used to be really good. I don't know what they changed...or maybe it was my pallette, but after going there often since I was very young (my father took me weekly in the summer), I went back a few months ago after a several-year layoff and wasn't that keen on it. I found mine plenty meaty but relatively flavorless.

                                                    1. re: Lowbar
                                                      f
                                                      flavrmeistr Aug 16, 2006 08:21 PM

                                                      G&M changed hands within the past year. It has gone seriously down hill. The guys that deliver seafood there won't even set foot inside the kitchen. They leave the stuff on the porch. Better off at Gunning's or Timbuktu. Speaking of Timbuktu, I recommend the subs and crabcake sandwiches from the grill/liquor store side than eating in the actual restaurant. Cheap, too. A decent steak and cheese or cheeseburger sub for about 5 bucks.

                                                      1. re: flavrmeistr
                                                        k
                                                        KOK Aug 18, 2006 02:53 PM

                                                        Agree 100% on Timbuktu. I recently had a crabcake sandwich from the grill that had just come out of the broiler. Along with a cup of very good Maryland crab soup.

                                                        I'm sorry to read that G & M has gone down hill. I always had great luck there, but haven't been in quite a while.

                                                        Hopefully Timbuktu (perhaps still owned by the OLD G & M owners, if they ever were?) won't start to suck as well.

                                                        Thanks,

                                                        Kevin

                                                        1. re: KOK
                                                          f
                                                          flavrmeistr Sep 1, 2006 07:17 PM

                                                          A drive-by last week found the G&M parking lot half full at lunch time. In the past, you were lucky to find a parking space. Must be something to it. I opted for the Philly-style sub place across the street. Thumbs down on that one. I wish there was a good Italian sub somewhere in the Hanover/Linthicum/Glen Burnie area. Any recs?

                                                  2. c
                                                    Chownut Aug 16, 2006 02:00 PM

                                                    Same Ruth's or different Ruth's each time?

                                                    1. e
                                                      EricDC Aug 16, 2006 02:14 PM

                                                      You know, I love Pizzeria Paradisio. Hmmm.

                                                      For me, overrated places are:
                                                      Hank's Oyster Bar - overpriced, to me
                                                      Komi - Loud all the time, impossible to have a nice meal
                                                      Oya - again, just flat out overpriced
                                                      Makoto - bad service and uncomfortable. Wouldn't mind to see that place go.

                                                      Underrated:
                                                      Sushi Taro - gets no love! The $10 lunch special is a steal.
                                                      Matchbox - the fact that I don't eat here every meal puzzles me.
                                                      AV Italiano - I know none of us wants to see it go. But how often to we actually eat here? There are good things here besides just the white pizza - anything that you would see someone in goodfellas eating, you want to get it here. I once had a whole fish here that was amazing. Side of broccoli rabe (I think).

                                                      4 Replies
                                                      1. re: EricDC
                                                        v
                                                        vbarcelona Sep 4, 2006 10:31 PM

                                                        Are you insane?!? Maktoto is probably the most authentic Japanese meal that you can get in the city. And Kotobuki that's on top of it is the best sushi deal that you can get in town. Matchbox hasn't been good since the original chef has left. You could eat every meal there if you love the feel of claustrophobia everytime you enter the restaurant. AV has been living on nostalgia for years.

                                                        1. re: vbarcelona
                                                          monkeyrotica Sep 4, 2006 11:14 PM

                                                          Are you insane?!? AV is THE BEST mediocre Italian food in DC. I know, that's like saying it's the biggest midget in the world, but it's not Galileo and it's not trying to be.

                                                          Anyway, you'll get your wish. AV will be a bunch of condos a year from now. So much for affordable Italian in the neighborhood.

                                                          1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                            Bill on Capitol Hill Nov 3, 2006 03:47 AM

                                                            I've criticized AV, but I find myself going back frequently now that its days are numbered. Whatever we might think about the food, it's sad to lose a space like that. (And the white pizza and the spaghetti Caruso aren't half bad.)

                                                            1. re: Bill on Capitol Hill
                                                              monkeyrotica Nov 3, 2006 12:46 PM

                                                              I try and go once a month. It will be missed. I was reading in DC Confidential (published in the 1950s), where they have a list of Italian restaurants downtown, of the dozen listed, only Luigi's and AV remain. Gusti's was on the list as well, but that closed a couple years back.

                                                              What's more irritating is that the neighborhood will be getting a mediocre "fast casual" Italian place called Vapiano. An Italian cafeteria owned by a German conglomerate. How can it go wrong?

                                                              http://gpliving.blogspot.com/2006/09/...

                                                      2. s
                                                        Smokey Aug 16, 2006 02:45 PM

                                                        Tabard Inn. Nice atmosphere, and I like the brunch, but every dinner (all two of them) I've had there was an overwrought interpretation of the food trends of yesterday and today in one plate. (And, overpriced at that!) I don't get the love for Tabard Inn.

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: Smokey
                                                          m
                                                          MartyL Aug 18, 2006 01:05 PM

                                                          Smokey: The Tabard is "eh" for dinner food (although I've heard good things for the new(ish) chef), but apparently first-rate for scrumping -- see

                                                          http://www.chowhound.com/topics/show/...

                                                          1. re: MartyL
                                                            s
                                                            Smokey Aug 18, 2006 02:30 PM

                                                            You know I'm married, MartyL--the +1 and I gave up scrumping when we exchanged our vows!

                                                        2. p
                                                          profjmm Aug 16, 2006 02:45 PM

                                                          Any restaurant in the DC Coast group. Just ok.

                                                          1 Reply
                                                          1. re: profjmm
                                                            rcheng Aug 17, 2006 06:10 PM

                                                            I agree with that as well.

                                                          2. b
                                                            BuckyinDC Aug 16, 2006 03:40 PM

                                                            For me it's breakfast at the Market Lunch in Eastern Market. Talk about long lines and surly service for not-so-tender pancakes, runny grits and weak coffee.

                                                            Much better to go across 7th Street SE to the salvadoran place for eggs, beans and pupusas.

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: BuckyinDC
                                                              h
                                                              Hungry Celeste Aug 16, 2006 08:26 PM

                                                              That salvadoran place is a diamond in the rough. Friendly people, too.

                                                              1. re: BuckyinDC
                                                                o
                                                                OssoBuco Aug 17, 2006 01:38 PM

                                                                I agree regarding the cakes, but they make a breakfast sandwich called "The Brick" which, if you get it with sausage is one of the truly sublime eating experiences in the area. It's something about the bread, the potatoes, and the processed cheese and the way it interacts with the surprisingly tasty sausage and fried egg. But I agree that the cakes are a lie agreed upon -- and while the coffee is reminiscent of a brown crayon stirred in hot water, it goes okay with that fabulous sandwich.

                                                              2. m
                                                                mgarland Aug 16, 2006 03:55 PM

                                                                Charleston. Everyone on chowhound loves this place but I didn't think it was anything special- esp not $100+ special... I've had better food in Baltimore for much less.

                                                                2 Replies
                                                                1. re: mgarland
                                                                  a
                                                                  atls21231 Aug 16, 2006 04:28 PM

                                                                  No disrespect intended, but I'm curious to know where you had better food in Baltimore? I mean I think for the money, there should be more of a "Wow" factor, but overall, from the well thought out dishes to the perfectly cooked food to the service to the wine list, to me, Charleseton is consistently superb.

                                                                  1. re: atls21231
                                                                    m
                                                                    mgarland Aug 16, 2006 08:21 PM

                                                                    Black Olive
                                                                    btw- I went there only once, before the remodelling. so it was about 4 years ago. I was so unimpressed that I never went back...

                                                                2. s
                                                                  Soup Aug 16, 2006 04:23 PM

                                                                  Ben's chili bowl.

                                                                  7 Replies
                                                                  1. re: Soup
                                                                    e
                                                                    EricDC Aug 16, 2006 05:32 PM

                                                                    Oh, hear hear. Yes, it's been around for ages. SO WHAT? The place serves veggie burgers and veggie chili OUT OF A CAN. To repeat, DIRECTLY OUT OF A CAN (or box, in the case of the burgers).

                                                                    What is so freaking chowish about a place that serves you food out of a can?! IMO, nothing. That's like lauding a restaurant that relies a microwave.

                                                                    1. re: EricDC
                                                                      monkeyrotica Aug 16, 2006 07:38 PM

                                                                      Plenty of well-regarded classic diners serve stuff straight outta the can (corned beef has, side veggies, etc). Then there's the cheesesteak fetishists who insist that anything besides Cheez Wiz is an abomination.

                                                                      Chowish means not just food, but service and atmosphere and price. I'll take Ben's chili halfsmoke over 2 Amy's burnt pie served in an authentic, poorly ventilated child daycare atmosphere any day.

                                                                      1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                        e
                                                                        EricDC Aug 16, 2006 08:37 PM

                                                                        Fair enough - but just because 2 Amy's may not be up to snuff, that doesn't, in my mind, mean Ben's is.

                                                                        To wit: Ben's is cheap. So are hot dog carts. Ben's is OLD. So is Anna Maria's over in Dupont, and I don't know ANYONE who goes there. And they've got just as many old-timey celebs on the wall. The atmosphere is joking, and greasy. So is Ooohs and Aahs, which is right down the street and 8 times better.

                                                                        I get that people dig the nostalgia value there - heck, I do too, I used to go there all the time after shows at the 9-30 and I met some -very- cool people just hanging out at the counter. But when I go there, I go because it's fun - not because it's any good at all. It's like a grown-up version of Chuck-E-Cheese to me, in that nostalgic way. But really, I will never say that it's anything but a grease pit that's open late and serves pretty unremarkable food. Thus, to me, not chowish.

                                                                        1. re: EricDC
                                                                          f
                                                                          Frolic Aug 17, 2006 02:05 PM

                                                                          I left D.C. a few years ago, so anything I say may be dated.

                                                                          The dogs at Ben's are just ok. The cakes, on the other hand, were fabulous.

                                                                          1. re: EricDC
                                                                            monkeyrotica Aug 17, 2006 02:07 PM

                                                                            <I>But really, I will never say that it's anything but a grease pit that's open late and serves pretty unremarkable food. Thus, to me, not chowish.</I>

                                                                            Isn't that pretty much the definition of ANY hotdog place in America?

                                                                            The problem with Ben's is that there is NO competition in that area in the oldtime, late night, greasy dive department. Florida Avenue is overpriced.

                                                                            And I agree that the dogs at Bens are nothing special. But the halfsmokes and chili cheese fries are the reason to go there. I just came back from Pittsburg and stopped at the Original Hotdog Shop. Their dogs have that great natural casing snap that Bens dogs lack.

                                                                            And I have to add Teaism to the "i don't get it" list. A tea version of Starbucks with some grocery store quality asian snacks. Bewildering.

                                                                        2. re: EricDC
                                                                          j
                                                                          jilli42 Nov 2, 2006 05:43 PM

                                                                          Having worked in several restaurants (of varying degrees of "good") and now working for a commercial microwave service company, almost ALL restaurants have a microwave. Oh not all of them will admit it, but they do. 95% of the ones mentioned in this thread as being good have them.. I wouldn't judge a place on whether or not they used microwaves...just my opinion.

                                                                        3. re: Soup
                                                                          p
                                                                          Procrastibaker Sep 4, 2006 10:03 PM

                                                                          Ben's really doesn't seem like the place to go for veggie anything-- maybe they resort to the can due to low demand. I've been out of the DC area for a while (4 yrs) but I remember the Post had a great snippet about a grease fire at Ben's (surprise). Apparently, a loyal customer put in a panicked phone call to be sure "the little smokies" were OK.

                                                                          And there's cheap, then there's CHEAP. Seriously. The last time I tried to get a hotdog at a cart in DC I actually took it back. Anemic and beige are not words that should apply to a hotdog.

                                                                        4. a
                                                                          atls21231 Aug 16, 2006 04:30 PM

                                                                          For me, it's Helen's Garden in Canton. I've had multiple meals there (meeting groups of people), and I've yet to taste any entree that would make it worth recommending or thinking about going if I had a choice.

                                                                          Also, I think Tapas Teatro has really mediocre, not very tasteful food. But they do have good sangria and it's a great spot, so that's a positive.

                                                                          5 Replies
                                                                          1. re: atls21231
                                                                            JonParker Aug 16, 2006 04:55 PM

                                                                            I don't remember anyone whose opinion I trust saying that Tapas Teatro was chow-worthy. I thought it was pretty mediocre as well.

                                                                            I agree with you about the sangria though.

                                                                            1. re: JonParker
                                                                              h
                                                                              hon Aug 16, 2006 05:20 PM

                                                                              I just ate at Tapas Teatro and think the food is pretty tasty!

                                                                              1. re: hon
                                                                                JonParker Aug 16, 2006 06:34 PM

                                                                                I had one dish that was downright bad -- it was trout with red onions and a citrus marinade. The marinade overwhelmed both the fish and the onions. It was memorably bad.

                                                                                The tapas we had was ok, but not on a par with Jaleo. But that trout was one of those awful experiences that you just don't forget. In fairness that was a while back, but I've never felt the need to return.

                                                                                I have the utmost respect for your taste though, so maybe I'll give it another shot. If you say it's good, I pretty much bank on the fact that it is. I haven't been burned following your advice yet.

                                                                                1. re: JonParker
                                                                                  h
                                                                                  hon Aug 16, 2006 07:02 PM

                                                                                  That does sound nasty.
                                                                                  They started serving a new menu last week, a little more seafood heavy. I'd give it another shot although I did have the paella once and was way too salty but otherwise every time I've eaten there it's been tasty.

                                                                              2. re: JonParker
                                                                                m
                                                                                mgarland Aug 16, 2006 08:29 PM

                                                                                I think it's just eneven. I've had good stuff there, and some stuff was merely OK. it's hard to know what to order and what not to order there.

                                                                            2. h
                                                                              hon Aug 16, 2006 05:21 PM

                                                                              I don't "get" Faidley's Crab Cakes, I mean they are OK, I can make better at home!
                                                                              (OK, I am prepared to be flamed)

                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                              1. re: hon
                                                                                k
                                                                                KOK Aug 18, 2006 02:57 PM

                                                                                I'm with you Hon. Unless they misunderstand or screw up my request for the special jumbo lump expensive version instead of the cheaper one everytime I've gone, I've never thought it was all that great. OK, but not great.

                                                                                Thanks,

                                                                                Kevin

                                                                              2. a
                                                                                Adam23 Aug 16, 2006 05:42 PM

                                                                                I'll give Galileo (not the grill days which I love) my vote.

                                                                                Meals have been ok but service sucks. Was expecting a lot more for the dinner price.

                                                                                1. r
                                                                                  redglass Aug 16, 2006 07:06 PM

                                                                                  Clare and Don's beach shack and Mexicali blues- both owned by the same folks, and both mediocre all the way. I have no idea why these places get so much praise.

                                                                                  And- don't get me wrong- I love the food and the prices at Ray's. But it's just steak, people, served in pretty boring surroundings. I don't understand why this place creates so much discussion on this and other boards.

                                                                                  1. Bill on Capitol Hill Aug 16, 2006 07:30 PM

                                                                                    Galileo would be an answer for the "crappy reviews are right" thread, no? The offshoots get raves, but I'm not sure I've ever seen a rave or even halfway decent review for the Galileo that is simply Galileo. Not in this century, at least.

                                                                                    1. p
                                                                                      Pixie Aug 16, 2006 08:37 PM

                                                                                      Full Kee

                                                                                      1. o
                                                                                        OssoBuco Aug 17, 2006 01:44 PM

                                                                                        For me, its Lebanese Taverna. I love lebanese food, but find LT, or at least the one location I've been to multiple times, to be merely average. Don't get me wrong -- it's not horrendous, but it just isn't great, no matter what I order...

                                                                                        1. f
                                                                                          foodfiend Aug 17, 2006 03:39 PM

                                                                                          Les Halles - the food is reasonably priced but uninspired. The service and attitudes of the staff are horrible.

                                                                                          1. h
                                                                                            hon Aug 17, 2006 05:43 PM

                                                                                            The now closed Haussners's in Baltimore, yeah it was a fixture and chock full of marginal art and a giant ball of string but the food hadn't been good in decades. After being drug there by my sister to eat one last time the week before they closed, I e-mailed a friend afterwards and said, "Thank God I've choked down my last meal there".

                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                            1. re: hon
                                                                                              h
                                                                                              Hal Laurent Aug 17, 2006 06:53 PM

                                                                                              No, the food wasn't that good at Haussner's. But it was a cool place (in a John Waters sort of way) in spite of the food.

                                                                                            2. m
                                                                                              mnadel Aug 17, 2006 06:00 PM

                                                                                              I'll cast another vote for Citronelle, and for Pizzeria Paradiso, and 2 Amy's, and Mexicali Blues, and Galileo.

                                                                                              And I'll add Carlyle Grand Cafe (now just "Carlyle," I guess). I don't get it.

                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                              1. re: mnadel
                                                                                                Mulan Nov 2, 2006 01:26 AM

                                                                                                I like 2 Amy's but find them hit or miss. Sometimes it is great; sometimes I get the burnt pizza. I went to Galileos a year ago and it was extremely disappointing. Never again! I love Carlyle though. Their chicken paillard, the lobster potstickers, the cosmo! However, their steaks are not as good as Boulevard Woodgrill.

                                                                                              2. rcheng Aug 17, 2006 06:11 PM

                                                                                                Baja Fresh. Someone was just praising it in a another thread, but I find their food to be on the bland side. However, I do love their salsa bar and the fact I can load up on cilantro is a big plus.

                                                                                                1. d
                                                                                                  Don Cornelius Aug 17, 2006 09:27 PM

                                                                                                  My wife LOVES Teaism, but I agree with the criticism. Their curry chicken is soupy and the chicken lacks flavor. The buffalo burger is also bland, perhaps because it's a frozen patty that hasn't been seasoned.

                                                                                                  About the only things that don't disappoint are the Bento boxes with the meatballs and the salty oat cookies.

                                                                                                  For atmosphere and drinks, it's a hit. Kitchen needs some rethinking.

                                                                                                  1. t
                                                                                                    Tujague Aug 17, 2006 09:49 PM

                                                                                                    This may sound like sacrilege to Jose Andres fans, but for me, it would have to be Oyamel and Zaytinya. That is not to say that I think either one is bad, but neither one is as good as Jaleo or Cafe Atlantico/Minibar at their best, which I love. I've only really liked about half of the things I had at Zaytinya, and I find the service often to be subpar and confused (love the pita bread and the carrot fritters though!). And at Oyamel, I found the food underflavored and portions small. In both places, the atmosphere trumps the food and service, in my opinion.

                                                                                                    1. s
                                                                                                      Slippery Aug 18, 2006 02:29 PM

                                                                                                      I don't understand the popularity of Vaccaro's.

                                                                                                      I find it amazing that an Italian pastry shop would have the nerve to use cans of non-dairy topping, the generic Sysco version, on their desserts. Yeah, the portions are huge, but I've never found the desserts very good.

                                                                                                      1. s
                                                                                                        Smokey Aug 18, 2006 02:30 PM

                                                                                                        I remembered another one! The gelato at Sam's Persian place in the IHOP strip mall on rockville pike, just north of Wootten Parkway. Every flavor I tried had a weird, chemical flavor. I think it's far below average, and actually prefer the Nat'l. Gallery gelato to Sam's (and I think in an absolute sense the Nat'l. Gallery gelato is only ok--the flavors aren't strong enough, but at least what I taste isn't weirdly chemical-y).

                                                                                                        1. r
                                                                                                          rawdog Aug 18, 2006 04:04 PM

                                                                                                          I may have missed a reply - but my main one is Blue Moon Cafe. I went with friends, did the wait, sat down for an less than IHOPish meal that had me nauseous for hours. I'm all about second chances, so we waited a year or so and went again with my wife. Again with the wait, only to get very mediocre food and a side of terrible service (and I'm not even picky about service in the first place.)

                                                                                                          So, a few weeks ago, I thought the third time would hopefully be a charm and....well, you see where this is headed. My conclusion - this place sucks and there are about a dozen places I'd rather go for breakfast/brunch which I rarely hear mentioned. At the same time, Blue Moon gets the accolades. Agree to disagree, I guess (I know I love one or two places that get crushed on this board), but I don't get the praise or the crowds.

                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: rawdog
                                                                                                            a
                                                                                                            atls21231 Aug 19, 2006 03:25 PM

                                                                                                            Agree that service at Blue Moon can be spotty at best, and apparently, this malaise has spread to the kitchen, as I've been hearing more and more comments like yours.

                                                                                                            I've not been for a few months, last time I was there, there was a noticeable drop in quality but I still enjoyed the breakfast; I guess it's gone even farther downhill.

                                                                                                            Just too bad.

                                                                                                            1. re: atls21231
                                                                                                              m
                                                                                                              mgarland Aug 21, 2006 04:02 PM

                                                                                                              that's sad- it was one of my favorite places, but I haven't eaten there in a while (because of the long lines). the owner used to cook there and she was fantastic. I don't know if that has changed, but I'll find out.

                                                                                                            2. re: rawdog
                                                                                                              w
                                                                                                              WVaHon Sep 4, 2006 03:48 AM

                                                                                                              I agree with the :P assessments of the Blue Moon! I have gotten lunch there 3 times and all three times I felt that for the price that I got ripped off. Bland, nothing special. There are those that I work with however who would and will totally disagree with me. Oh well!

                                                                                                            3. viperlush Aug 18, 2006 09:48 PM

                                                                                                              Paper Moon Diner in Baltimore. My boyfriend and I went there for breakfast one saturday I had the french toast (challah) and he had an egg sandwich with vegetables. The menu surprised me because they did not serve sides with most of their choice, any side you wanted cost extra (my biggest dining pet peeve is ordering a burger or sandwich to find that it costs extra for french fries and cheese). The food wasn't bad, but it was no better than what I could have made at home. What bothered me the most was the service. Not once did a waitress ask if we wanted refills on our coffee and we had to ask twice for our check.

                                                                                                              It just might be that as a transplanted New Jerseyan I expect my diners to not only be open 24/7, but to have attentive service and cheap good food.

                                                                                                              3 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: viperlush
                                                                                                                JonParker Aug 18, 2006 11:37 PM

                                                                                                                I'm not sure I've ever seen anyone rave about Paper Moon's food. It kind of is what it is. I eat there fairly often because it's open and kind of cool. I generally stick to omelettes. It's never had good service.

                                                                                                                It's kind of the place I go to because it's there, It's a lot better than Towson Diner or Double T.

                                                                                                                1. re: JonParker
                                                                                                                  monkeyrotica Aug 20, 2006 01:37 PM

                                                                                                                  I've got friends in Hampden who won't shut up about the place. I guess they like the dust and sub-par service. Three times so far and each time was an ordeal.

                                                                                                                  I tell them to meet me at Jimmy's or almost anywhere else.

                                                                                                                  1. re: monkeyrotica
                                                                                                                    h
                                                                                                                    hon Aug 21, 2006 03:14 PM

                                                                                                                    I live in Hampden and won't shut up about how bad it is!

                                                                                                              2. bolivianita Aug 19, 2006 05:17 PM

                                                                                                                I always wondered what the paper moon had to offer other than poor service sub standard fare and a dusty dirty dining room. i have gone several times and never enjoyed it once. won't be going back again.

                                                                                                                6 Replies
                                                                                                                1. re: bolivianita
                                                                                                                  a
                                                                                                                  amykramy Aug 21, 2006 09:58 AM

                                                                                                                  the paper moon has terrible, over priced food and even worse service...the only reason it's still open is because it's one of the only places to get food 24 hours a day in the city. it's 2 am bar crowds must keep it going....and once you are over 25, it loses it's scenester cool....(and the owner is a nutjob)

                                                                                                                  1. re: amykramy
                                                                                                                    m
                                                                                                                    mgarland Aug 21, 2006 04:05 PM

                                                                                                                    i think you've hit the nail on the head. It's the only thing open if you are getting out of the ottobar after a show at darkthirty. the food is terrible and so is the service.

                                                                                                                    1. re: mgarland
                                                                                                                      h
                                                                                                                      Hal Laurent Aug 21, 2006 04:14 PM

                                                                                                                      > It's the only thing open if you are getting out of the ottobar after a show at darkthirty.

                                                                                                                      There's always Sip and Bite in Canton.

                                                                                                                      1. re: Hal Laurent
                                                                                                                        m
                                                                                                                        mgarland Aug 21, 2006 04:28 PM

                                                                                                                        too far! paper moon is right nearby. i think they get a LOT of mileage from the convenience factor of their location (near hopkins homewood campus and the ottobar). why else would you go there?

                                                                                                                        1. re: Hal Laurent
                                                                                                                          j
                                                                                                                          jilli42 Nov 2, 2006 05:45 PM

                                                                                                                          Sip n Bite (shudder) if you have ever seen their kitchen or their microwave you wouldn't want to eat there again...

                                                                                                                          1. re: jilli42
                                                                                                                            monkeyrotica Nov 2, 2006 06:34 PM

                                                                                                                            Ever heard of "beer goggles?" Alcohol has this magic ability to make revolting things look pretty tempting. Like some of the people you'd meet at Max's on Broadway, and what comes out of the kitchen at Sip n Bite.

                                                                                                                  2. rcheng Aug 20, 2006 03:25 PM

                                                                                                                    I am also not a big fan of the Metro 29 Diner in Arlington.

                                                                                                                    1 Reply
                                                                                                                    1. re: rcheng
                                                                                                                      Mulan Nov 2, 2006 01:24 AM

                                                                                                                      I go there for breakfast regularly. I love the diner decor, with the big wraparound windows. Their food isn't the best, but I like their waffles and their sausages (when they are cooked fresh and not reheated). Their coffee isn't bad for diner coffee.

                                                                                                                      Never been there for dinner though.

                                                                                                                    2. s
                                                                                                                      sweetpotater Aug 30, 2006 01:50 AM

                                                                                                                      Yes, Brass Elephant is what immediately came to mind. Pazo's too. Abacrombie too. (Actually, a lot of places in Baltimore. I moved from DC and the standard for a "rave" restaurant is much lower.)

                                                                                                                      1. b
                                                                                                                        bbarrick Sep 2, 2006 08:54 PM

                                                                                                                        Hank's Oyster Bar (haven't they heard of salt? and what's with no desserts?)
                                                                                                                        Rice (what's to rave? haven't had a good meal yet by American or Thai standards and the service is terrible)

                                                                                                                        1. s
                                                                                                                          Spade Sep 5, 2006 02:40 PM

                                                                                                                          Buck's. The prices are crazy. Ok, some of the food is pretty good, but $8 for two deviled eggs (plain), $9 for a piece of what's basically Texas sheet cake (seemingly served at every picnic I go to), etc... Wha? I forget what the absurd price of the shrimp and grits was (everyone raves, but with the same amounts of cream and cheese, you can easily produce this dish at home).

                                                                                                                          1. Ell Gee Nov 1, 2006 10:13 PM

                                                                                                                            Ceiba -- bah! The only movie I've ever walked out on is Cat People in the '80s. The only meal I ever wished I'd walked out on was at Ceiba during Restaurant Week last year. Bad trip.

                                                                                                                            1. biscuit Nov 1, 2006 11:44 PM

                                                                                                                              Citronelle.

                                                                                                                              I was, for the most part, unimpressed. Maybe it was a bad night. Maybe I ordered poorly. I don't know, but it didn't work for me.

                                                                                                                              The decor was ugly. The bar with the 70's looking furniture was off-putting and I couldn't figure out where the actual restaurant was. No clear signage or markings. What a mess.

                                                                                                                              The only thing I liked was the dessert and probably because it reminded me of cereal I ate as a kid.

                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                              1. re: biscuit
                                                                                                                                w
                                                                                                                                wagnerag Nov 2, 2006 09:05 PM

                                                                                                                                I'd have to agree with Citronelle as well. Most disappointed I've been lately. Service was boarderline rude, meal was fine but not amazing by any means. Have had much better meals elsewhere - especially for that about of money. Wouldn't go back - even if someone else was paying I'd suggest an alternative.

                                                                                                                              2. d
                                                                                                                                Dakota Guy Dec 6, 2006 01:54 PM

                                                                                                                                I am curious what you, and biscuit, consider a really good restaurant. I am not taking issue with your opinions (each to their own) but am curious as to what others consider topnotch. Personally I love Citronelle, but that's just me.

                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                1. re: Dakota Guy
                                                                                                                                  s
                                                                                                                                  Steve Dec 6, 2006 02:56 PM

                                                                                                                                  You don't have to ask that question. Simply click on a Chowhound's underlined name to review the profile!

                                                                                                                                  1. re: Steve
                                                                                                                                    d
                                                                                                                                    Dakota Guy Dec 6, 2006 04:20 PM

                                                                                                                                    I did check. I was hoping that a taco truck was not what someone considered a top restuarant in Washington.

                                                                                                                                2. i
                                                                                                                                  isabellaflynn Dec 7, 2006 05:00 PM

                                                                                                                                  Wow - this is a great topic and so in line with my thoughts lately on some of the places I've eaten at in recent days. Here's my two cents:

                                                                                                                                  Johnny's Half Shell - had been to the old locale, just went to the new one and it's even worse

                                                                                                                                  DC Coast/Ceiba/Ten Penh - Oversalted, overdone entrees with strange ingredients, although the yellow gazpacho at Ceiba was pretty tasty

                                                                                                                                  Pizzeria Paradiso - utterly tasteless pizza at a premium price

                                                                                                                                  Zaytinya - I lived in Turkey and visited Greece and this doesn't come close to the offerings. Lamb should be used in manti - not beef!

                                                                                                                                  Galileo - Been twice and both times I thought it was mediocre

                                                                                                                                  Regent Thai - Lovely setting, food is uninspired

                                                                                                                                  Agree completely on Cakelove too!

                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                  1. re: isabellaflynn
                                                                                                                                    h
                                                                                                                                    hungryT Dec 8, 2006 11:45 AM

                                                                                                                                    I did a little pizza tour of the area and came up with the following:
                                                                                                                                    2 Amy's. Excellent 12" pizza. Sauce & toppings (sausage/roasted peppers) are top notch but the dough was very chewy. How chewy?, jaw was tired after consuming 1/4 of the pizza. I'd rather they burn the crust so the bottom is crispy. They also forgot to slice the pizza when they brought it to my table?! Naturally, my pizza got soggy toward the end.
                                                                                                                                    Emilio's Brick oven (sterling). Excellent crust that deserves its own marinara sauce. Stewed tomatoes used instead of traditional sauce. However, they don't know how to assemble the 11" pizza. Dry toppings were on top (their mild sausage and mushroom) (charcoal anyone?)
                                                                                                                                    Valentino's (@ landmark). The sicilian (veggie) pie was good but the same dough doesn't quite work w/ the NY style slices. There happened to be a hair w/ cheese in one of my slices.
                                                                                                                                    Italian store. Was ok but can't really comment since the pizza got steamed while bringing back to the office. Will have to try again. Always phone ahead.
                                                                                                                                    Piola. Average at best. Average dough. Chopped grocery store (cold) tomatoes and basil were added to a cooked 10" pizza.
                                                                                                                                    Paradiso Pizzeria. Pricey and smaller 9" pizza. Not the best dough or best toppings, but great pizza overall. Vine-ripened roma tomato slices, mozzarella was not greasy, above average dough. Sausage is mild so the salami or prosciutto was preferred. Anchovy was very salty (duh? :) )Good build quality. Manager stated they brine their own olives at the cozy Dupont location. Olives were no were near as good at the larger G'town location (which happens to have an extensive beer/wine menu).

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